Introduction to Criminal Justice
Introduction to Criminal Justice

Introduction to Criminal Justice

Lead Author(s): Daniel K. Maxwell

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An introduction to the criminal justice system in the United States.


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My name is Dan Maxwell and it is my pleasure to present this book to you. I have 25 years of experience in police work and over 25 years of experience teaching criminal justice courses to undergraduate students. During this time I have learned what works with students and have learned to adapt to their changing needs. Over time I have discovered that students respond and learn better with information that is designed for them using a combination of real life experience and subject matter knowledge. Students tell me that they learn better by being interactive in the classroom as opposed to listening to lectures and I take them at their word. I am excited that this text offers a variety of learning options that includes video of current criminal justice topics as well as discussion questions designed to foster interaction and collaboration both in and out of the classroom.

The purpose of this book is to give the reader an overall understanding of the criminal justice system in America. This text covers most of the basics that similar books provide but does so in a more straightforward manner. This book is written using language that is easy to understand and terms currently used in the industry. This text is created to help students build a solid foundation of criminal justice knowledge to assist them not only with future academic endeavors but for continued use in the field itself.  

This text is designed, primarily, for first year undergraduate students who are majoring in criminal justice but is suitable for anyone who has an interest in the field.  An introductory course in criminal justice is required by most colleges and universities for students majoring in criminal justice. For most criminal justice students, this is the first course they take in their major so it is vital that they start off with a solid foundation. In my time working with students I have discovered that this particular course sets the tone for the rest of their criminal justice academic work so it is vital to create a solid connection.

Topics covered in this text are the three major areas of criminal justice that include policing, courts and corrections. A brief history of criminal justice and some criminal law is presented as well as some of the challenges we face moving forward. An important aspect of this book is that topics considered to be controversial are addressed without any sugarcoating.  As a practitioner I felt it was important to include a good deal of myth busting throughout the text as a majority of our population get their “knowledge” from popular culture and social media sources.  Hopefully this dose of reality will help encourage students and readers to do their own research so they can form their own opinions.

About the author:

The author, Daniel K. Maxwell,  is a full-time faculty member in the Criminal Justice Department of the Henry C. Lee College at the University of New Haven in Connecticut with over 25 years of teaching experience. He spent 25 years as a full-time police officer with the Greenwich and Madison Police Departments, both in Connecticut. He holds two masters degrees, one in criminal justice, one in public administration, both from the University of New Haven. 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – What is Criminal Justice: 

History of Crime in the United States

The Criminal Justice Process

How the Bill of Rights Applies to the Criminal Justice Process

Chapter 2 – Measuring Crime:

Uniform Crime Report / National Incident Based Reporting System

National Crime Victimization Survey 

Crime Typologies

Chapter 3 – Criminal Law: 

Purpose and Nature of Law

Categories of Crime

Criminal Defenses

Chapter 4 – Police History, Structure and Function:

History of Policing 

Police Structure

Levels of Law Enforcement in the United States

Chapter 5 – Legal Issues with Policing:

Legal Constraints on Police Powers

Search and Seizure 

Interrogation and Miranda Warnings

Chapter 6 – Police Culture and Characteristics:

Police Culture

Police Corruption

Nature of Police Work

Chapter 7 – The Court System:

Development of the U.S. Court System

Court Structures 

Pretrial Activities

Chapter 8 – The Courtroom Work Group:

Courtroom Professionals

Courtroom Nonprofessionals

Roles and Functions

Chapter 9 – The Criminal Trial:

Criminal Trial Process

Adversarial Nature of the Criminal Trial

Stages of the Criminal Trial

Chapter 10 - Sentencing: 

Goals of Sentencing 

Sentencing Options 

Victim's Rights

Chapter 11 – Prisons and Jails:

History of Jails and Prisons 

Types of Correctional Facilities 

Inmate Demographics

Chapter 12 – The Prison Experience: 

Prison Subculture 

Types of Inmates 

Prison Life

Chapter 13 - Juvenile Justice: 

History of Juvenile Justice 

Major Court Decisions Regarding Juvenile Justice 

Juvenile Justice Process

Chapter 14 – Community Corrections:  



Intermediate Sanctions

Chapter 15 – Current Challenges in Criminal Justice: 



Wrongful Convictions  


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Crime image by Nick Youngson courtey of CC BY-SA 3.0